Week in Wrestling: Previewing the Royal Rumble with Ric Flair, John Morrison, more

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Wednesday January 25th, 2017

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling. This Royal Rumble edition includes Ric Flair discussing the famed ’92 Royal Rumble; John Morrison discussing Rumble memories and his role as the “Benjamin Button” of pro wrestling; Demolition reminiscing about facing off in the ’89 Rumble; handicapping this year’s Rumble with Court Bauer; the Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff; and Five Questions with MMA fighter and member of the Four Horsewomen Marina Shafir.

The Wrestlers’ Tribune: The “Nature Boy” Ric Flair

Courtesy of WWE

Ric Flair captured the World Wrestling Federation championship by winning the 1992 Royal Rumble. With an all-star cast of 16 Hall of Famers, the ’92 Rumble is considered one of the greatest Rumbles of all time, and Flair’s legendary performance was further enhanced by the legendary Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on commentary. Here, Flair reveals the enormity of the moment and brings fans behind the curtain of the famed ’92 Rumble.

With A Tear in My Eye

You can trust Jake Roberts. At least I did.

I went for my work out on Sunday morning on January 19, 1992. I’ve always had a soft spot for Albany, New York, and that’s exactly where I found myself. That night was the night of the Royal Rumble in a building called the Knickerbocker Arena, and that’s the night I became officially recognized as a 9-time world champion.

Jake the Snake first told me that morning that I was getting the belt and winning the Rumble. I honestly had no idea. Then, as soon as I arrived in the building, Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson called me in Vince’s office and told me I was going over.

I’ve been called the “sixty minute man” before, but I gave the term new meaning that night. I lasted for over an hour in the Rumble, which was a record at the time, and I had a lot of fun doing it with some of the best in the business.

I did a hundred free squats and a hundred pushups before the match, and I was ready to go. The black-sequined robe I wore to the ring is now in a framed case at the house of my good friend Darius Rucker, the frontman for Hootie and the Blowfish.

The Bulldog and DiBiase opened the match, and I came in third. There were 16 Hall of Famers in this Rumble, which doesn’t even include The Undertaker, who will be number 17. That’s over half the field.

I spent my night feeding guys and taking bumps. I preferred to give myself up instead of being offensively aggressive, and I’d been feeding guys my whole life. I had memorable moments in the Rumble with Greg Valentine, the Barbarian, Sgt. Slaughter, the Big Boss Man, and Rick Martel. I locked up with Jim Duggan, who I’d once wrestled for an hour in Mid-South Wrestling. My old friend Jimmy Snuka was in the ring, and my mind went back in time when I saw Kerry Von Erich. I thought of a packed house of 50,000 people at Texas Stadium as we fought in a singles match for the NWA world heavyweight championship. Kerry’s star, sadly, had descended, but that night, I was rising. Working with so many of the boys that night, it was as if my life came full circle on a cold night in Albany.

Extra Mustard
WWE superstars mourn death of Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka

I was also working with the toughest wrestler in the history of the business: Haku.

When I’m backing up from Haku in the Rumble, it’s real. Haku is the most wonderful, kindest man, but I’ll offer you a little advice. If you ever have him over your house, don’t invite anyone else—he’s a cannibal. In all seriousness, his piledriver was one of the best ever.

So many people remember me for my “Flair flop,” which I learned from Johnny Valentine. I’ve been so blessed throughout my career, and thank god for YouTube and the WWE Network. People still love watching my matches, but I was far from the only one in the Rumble worth watching.

Shawn Michaels had just left the Rockers, and we also had a chance to work together in the Rumble.

I already knew the kid was special, but this was the night I saw the brilliance of Shawn Michaels. He had such great position, great psychology, and could take big bumps. The Bulldog got the feed of a lifetime from Shawn in that Rumble. My most talked-about WWE matches are this Rumble and my ‘Mania retirement match, and I worked with Shawn in both of them. He is one of the all-time greats.

Speaking of the greatest of all time, the highlight of that match was working with Roddy Piper. Hot Rod hadn’t been to bed, like me, in three days, but you never would have known it. He was electric that night, and we always brought the best out in each other. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t think of Roddy and how much I miss him.

It’s funny, I was supposed to be managed during my whole WWE run by Bobby Heenan. I love Bobby and we became great friends when I first broke into the business, but “The Brain” wouldn’t manage me. Bobby told Vince, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Bobby thought we’d have had a little too much fun on the road, and he said those days were over. So I worked with Curt Hennig, which was a blessing, and I cannot picture my time without Mr. Perfect.

Hulk Hogan was part of that Rumble too, and he was the golden goose. Everything Hogan touched turned to gold, but this match was my opportunity. We had such an incredible cast of people in this match and I was just fortunate enough to be there, and even more fortunate to be the winner.

My interview after the match was as real as could be. I’d been reduced to almost nothing in WCW by Jim Herd at that point in my career, and my moment in the WWE—at this Rumble—completely rejuvenated me. In some ways, it was my redemption, and I spoke straight from the heart after the match in my interview. Standing next to Gene Okerlund, Bobby Heenan, and Curt Hennig, I truly felt like I was The Man in all of professional wrestling.

I spent the night celebrating with Curt Hennig, Bobby Heenan, and Gene Okerlund. Gene’s drink—straight up, dirty, with olives—was flowing that night. We loaded up on dirty martinis, as we also did during the Bischoff era. If I could turn back the hands of time to that night, then believe me, I would love to take another ride.

That Rumble is the second best win of my career. My victory at Starrcade over Harley Race for my second world title will forever be number one, but the Royal Rumble in 1992 is right next to it. Winning the Rumble remains, just like I said that night in Albany, one of the greatest nights in the history of my life.

~ Ric Flair

News of the Week

Looking back in order to look forward in the WWE brings us to the 2011 Royal Rumble. That Rumble opened with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as the first two competitors in the over-the-top battle royal.

Neither Punk nor Bryan won that 2011 Rumble (Bryan was eliminated by Punk, and Punk was, fittingly, eliminated by John Cena) but the match signified a new guard in the WWE.

Yes, there were nostalgic returns, most notably Kevin Nash as Diesel and Booker T, but the focus was the future of the company. Even the winner, Alberto Del Rio, represented a fresh face on the marquee for WWE.

Who will stand out in this year’s Rumble? Stars such as The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Bill Goldberg give the match added legitimacy, but the focus of the Rumble needs to remain on building the younger stars, like Dean Ambrose, Big E, and Cesaro.

Regardless of the Rumble’s winner, the most significant part of Sunday evening will be watching how WWE positions its next tier of stars.

Looking ahead to WrestleMania 33, the women have a tall task of exceeding the fantastic triple threat match between Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch from WrestleMania 32.

An easy way to solve that conundrum is to give the women the multi-person ladder match at ‘Mania that is normally attached to the Intercontinental title.

A women’s ladder match between Flair, Banks, Lynch, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and Nia Jax would highlight every star in the division and allow the women to shine like never before at a WrestleMania.

There would be a question of what to do with the two championship belts, but the larger issue is the lack of depth in the division. Matches inevitably grow less special after seeing the same wrestlers battle repeatedly. Banks and Flair fight all the time, but they are forced to because of the lack of women in WWE. A strong match at ‘Mania will hopefully lead to a continued focus on the women’s division in 2017.

In other news…

Raw went off-the-air on Monday with Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, and The Undertaker all sharing the ring. Smackdown countered with a lumberjack match between Dean Ambrose and The Miz. The advantage, clearly, goes to Raw.

Extra Mustard
Goldberg’s pre-match ritual left him with a bloody gash in his head

• It’s true: Kurt Angle will not be providing color commentary for the 5 Star Wrestling show this Saturday in Scotland, opening the door for Angle to enter the Royal Rumble. Angle is healthy, living clean, and in phenomenal shape at the age of 48, and I have a feeling we will see the Olympic hero return to a WWE canvas for the first time in eleven years this Sunday.

• On the subject of Royal Rumble returns, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig surprised fans in 2002 – and the combination of Diesel and Booker T coming back to WWE in 2011 was also memorable.

• “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan won the first ever Royal Rumble in 1988. Duggan shared with SI how he was first connected with his trademark two-by-four:

“I’ve been carrying the two-by-four longer than I’ve been carrying the flag. I started off as ‘Big’ Jim Duggan with short hair and clean shaven and a long gold bathrobe, and that didn’t work. I went through two or three different characters before I found ‘Hacksaw’, but back in the old days, this could be a very dangerous business just getting to and back from the ring. People would spit at ya, they’d punch you, and I was a bad guy then. I was sitting in the dressing room one night, all bruised up and covered with loogies, and Bruiser Brody comes in and says, ‘Duggan, if you carry something to the ring, bring something you can use. Forget those feathered boas and sequined robes.’ I saw a piece of wood, so I came up waving that piece of wood, and it was like parting the Red Sea. I got back and forth to the ring, and I’ve been carrying the two-by-four ever since.”

• My Friday evening was spent at the XWA show in Rhode Island, which featured Ricochet defeating Travis “Flip” Gordon. Ricochet is so smooth and precise in the ring, he can fly, and he can also work on the ground. Ricochet would add prestige to the WWE Intercontinental championship, and there is no reason he should not win the IWGP junior heavyweight championship this year.

• There is no more exciting match in pro wrestling than the Royal Rumble, and part of the excitement is making predictions. Disco Inferno shared his Rumble prediction with SI.com:

“Charlotte Flair,” said Disco. “She’s the hottest act on the roster right now and the WWE could capitalize on the popularity of the Women’s March. It would be like putting a filly in the Kentucky Derby.”

• The 1994 Royal Rumble included the brilliant storytelling of Bret and Owen Hart against the Quebecers for the tag team titles, which featured Owen’s heel turn on Bret. Owen explained himself in this interview (and uttered the infamous “That’s why I kicked your leg out of your leg!”) and began his run as an extremely talented villain.

• Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of AJ Styles’ arrival in WWE. Styles has worked memorable programs with Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose. Let’s hope a WrestleMania main event is in his immediate future. His interaction with Cena was the highlight of Smackdown, and the opportunity is ripe to continue Styles’ winning streak over Cena.

• I’m fortunate to be part of the famed John Baglio/Sean Wilkinson Royal Rumble pool, which is a 30-person pool with pay-outs for the Rumble winner, most eliminations, longest in the Rumble, and even a prize for the “Santino Spot” for the runner-up. This is, by far, my favorite pay per view of the year. As for predictions: Baron Corbin with most eliminations; Dolph Ziggler as the longest in the Rumble; Bill Goldberg as the runner-up; and Finn Balor as the winner.

• Coming attractions: Midterm exams are here, and the Dean—err, “The Franchise”—Shane Douglas will be grading the WWE roster next week on the Week in Wrestling.

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & the Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are hosting their first-ever “Pro Wrestling Night”.

On Thursday, February 9, the Panthers will play the Los Angeles Kings, and fans with have the chance to watch the game with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Christian, and Tommy Dreamer.

“I love being with the fans,” said Steamboat, who was the pro wrestling equivalent of Mike Modano, as both are Hall of Famers whose brilliance at their craft still did not match their grace off of it. “This is my chance to say ‘Thank you’ for all the support, take pictures, and shake hands.”

Quiz Time: Can you guess whether these wrestlers have ever won the Royal Rumble?

In preparation for a visit next week from Dean Douglas, here is a quiz on the Royal Rumble to help you prepare. Also, if you’re looking for even more of a challenge, then try this.

John Morrison on the Rumble, Mundo ’18, and 5 Star

Courtesy of John Morrison

John Morrison is forever intertwined with the Royal Rumble. The current Lucha Underground world champ—as well as 5 Star Wrestling champion—engineered some unforgettable moments in the 30-year history of the Royal Rumble with his unrivaled athleticism and creativity. Morrison connected with SI.com to discuss the Rumble, his current work defending two different world titles, and touched on some of his friends—namely, The Miz—in WWE.

John Morrison will forever be remembered for engineering one of the greatest spots in the history of the Royal Rumble when he scaled a barricade during the 2011 Rumble then jumped back onto the steel steps, avoiding a seemingly inevitable elimination.

“I am really proud of that Rumble moment,” said Morrison. “I’ve put a lot of thought into how I can one-up that if I ever get the opportunity, and I have a few ideas.”

Since Morrison’s departure from WWE in November of 2011, Kofi Kingston has claimed Morrison’s old role of dazzling the Rumble crowd with Houdini-like survival spots.

“Kofi is not taking anyone’s spot,” said Morrison. “He’s reinvented himself and he’s doing his own thing. Competitiveness breeds better content for everyone. He does things I can’t do and I do things he can’t do.”

Even away from WWE, Morrison still pays attention to the Rumble.

“I love the Rumble,” said Morrison. “For the record, the winner of the Rumble will be Brock, ‘Taker, or Finn Balor—but I think it will be Brock. I’ll watch if I’m home in time from 5 Star.”

Morrison is known as Johnny Mundo in Lucha Underground, where he is the promotion’s champion, and he is also 5 Star Wrestling champion. He will defend his 5 Star title at 5 Star’s extravagant show—featuring Rey Mysterio, Drew Galloway, Jay Lethal, and Carlito—this Saturday in Dundee, Scotland.

Morrison defeated AJ Styles last January to become the first-ever 5 Star champion.

“I’ve had the opportunity to wrestle AJ Styles twice, and no one deserves to be WWE champion more than that guy,” said Morrison. “He put in his time and paid his dues, and he’s so crisp and clean and his mind is so wrapped around wrestling. He’s a pleasure to be in the ring with. He can fly, he can do ground work. I was a high school and collegiate wrestler and AJ was the same, and our styles meshed really well and we had good chemistry. It’s cool that we had the chance to start 5 Star in the U.K. and to see how much it’s grown.

“Getting to be involved with a promotion like 5 Star is really cool. They’re planning on shooting thirty weeks of television and the largest tournament in the history of pro wrestling on a week-to-week basis in the U.K. We’re kicking it off on January 28 in Scotland.”

The 37-year-old Morrison broke into the business in 2002 through WWE’s Tough Enough and is enjoying his fifteenth year in wrestling. He has been told by friends that he is the “Benjamin Button of wrestling” and grows more talented in the ring with each passing year, even referring to the current year as “Mundo ’17.”

“Undertaker used to watch my matches when I was Johnny Nitro in WWE, and he’d say to me, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now,’” said Morrison. “It’s so true. The longer you’ve worked in the business and the more different styles you have been exposed to, you really have a good idea of what works for what crowds and what works for you specifically. Anyone can do anything, but you need to figure out how to build drama and tell a story. ‘Mundo ’17’ is because I’ve grown good at learning what people want to see from me and my sweet spot.”

Lucha Underground is in the midst of its mid-season break, but Morrison promises some spectacular moments when the show returns.

“I’m really proud of my matches that will air after the hiatus in season three,” said Morrison. “I’ve put a lot of work into my moves, like a modified cork, and the matches and moments mean a lot to me, too. My best moments, however, are still in front of me.”

Morrison also stars in a new commercial for Slim Jim, and he is grateful for the opportunity to be associated with a brand so intertwined with pro wrestling.

“I don’t know if there is a cooler brand to endorse as a wrestler than Slim Jim,” said Morrison. “You immediately think of Randy Savage, and Edge is another great wrestler who endorsed Slim Jim. It’s cool for me to be a part of.”

Morrison was written off WWE television in 2011 after a vicious attack from former tag team partner The Miz, and he still plans on returning the favor to the current WWE Intercontinental champion.

“I just saw The Miz over New Year’s and we had a good conversation about everything, and I wish him the best,” said Morrison. “The better he does, the more it’s going to mean when I go back there and whoop his ass. Or, when he comes here to Lucha Underground and gets his ass whooped. Either way, the fans are going to love it.”

Morrison’s film, Boone: The Bounty Hunter, will be released in either May or June, and he cannot wait to share the project with his fans.

“It’s about a reality show bounty hunter who needs to go after a real criminal to save his show,” said Morrison. “I wrote, produced, and starred in the film—and I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tanner into this movie. I’ve been working on this for the past couple years, and I’m really excited for it to come out. The action I did in Boone is similar to what you’d see Jackie Chan do. We’re doing real scenes and real stunts, and wrestling fans are going to like it.”

The Nitro Files: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Courtesy of WWE

The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff—who was the president of WCW during the company’s most successful years—hosts his weekly Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast, as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”

Well before the first shot was ever fired in the “Monday Nights Wars,” Eric Bischoff gave WCW programming a sizable enhancement by hiring Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as his color commentator.

“When you’re out in the ring in your underwear, essentially, you can become really naked if your announce team isn’t doing a great job with the narrative and telling your story for you,” explained Bischoff, who admired Heenan’s work dating back to his time in the AWA. ”The talent knew there was no better calling their match than Bobby Heenan.”

Heenan’s greatest contribution to WCW was performed in subtle fashion. “The Brain” played a critical role in the success of the Bill Goldberg run, building up the heels that Goldberg squashed while also giving WCW’s new sensation an air of invincibility.

“You could have a so-so match and Bobby would put it over and viewers would think it was the greatest,” said Bischoff. “Wrestlers knew how good Bobby was at his job, and that’s why they had so much respect for Bobby.”

Bischoff helped turn WCW into the number one wrestling company in the world through his strong ability to evaluate talent and a willingness to learn from those around him, which was never more apparent than during his signing of Heenan in 1994.

“Bobby was a legend,” stated Bischoff. “I would have never attempted, for a moment, to try to give Bobby Heenan direction or suggest how he do what he was so great at doing. That never crossed my mind. Bobby was a pro’s pro, particularly when he first came into WCW. Bobby had forgotten more about getting guys over in his role as a color guy, both heels and babyfaces, than every other color guy had ever known. He was the best of the best of the best, and I never imagined trying to tell Bobby how to do his job. He had free rein.”

Tongue cancer treatments have left Heenan unable to speak, but years removed from working together, Bischoff only thinks of laughter when he recalls memories of Bobby Heenan.

“When I think of Bobby, I think back to the times I was around him,” said Bischoff. “His humor, I mean, he was like a stand-up comedian. If he had an audience backstage or during a couple cocktails after the show, he would hold court and have you in stitches. There was so much humor and levity in the way he told a story that you’d find yourself in tears.”

Demolition and the 1989 Royal Rumble & Andre

The 1989 Royal Rumble was the first Rumble to ever be broadcast on pay per view, and the Rumble match opened in surprising fashion: Demolition’s Ax and Smash, who were reigning WWF tag team champions, were the first two competitors in the ring.

“I was busy warming up, so I was loosening up when they were busy pulling numbers,” said Ax. “Naturally, I thought it was a rib.”

Smash was busy playing cribbage with Andre the Giant—the customary tradition among the old school wrestlers was to play cards in their gear, since they were always ready for the call to the ring—and he was also unaware of his placement until right before the match.

“We never even knew,” said Smash. “And then the third guy in the Rumble was Andre.”

This is the only time in Rumble history that the match opened with the tag team champions squaring off against one another.

“We were beating each other up pretty good, and they’ve never done it since with tag partners quite like that in the Rumble,” said Ax. “I’ve never been so glad to see Andre.

“Andre was fickle. If he didn’t like you, he was going to give you s---, but he liked us and he knew we were going to give him as good a match as possible. Andre was a megastar, surpassing everyone else. Losing Andre was a major loss. He was very protective of this business because it was his sanctuary. Outside of the business, he was just this giant that people were gawking at. Inside, he was one of the boys.”

Both Ax and Smash were in Andre’s inner-circle, and Smash was a regular cribbage partner.

“If you were on his bad side, you weren’t playing cards with him, so I was happy to be able to play,” said Smash. “We played five dollars a game, and he’d usually always win. One time, when we were going to Japan, I was 60 games ahead of him. He was mad, and I didn’t want him to be mad, but there was no way I was going to lose to him. That was when we worked with him and Giant Baba over there, and he looked at me and said, ‘We’re playing on the way home.’ On the way home, he won all of his money back and more.”

Exclusive Lucha Underground clip

Lucha Underground, which is available on iTunes, is on its mid-season break, but will be reminding Sports Illustrated readers about what is in store once the show returns.

Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson

Courtesy of Conrad Thompson

Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard return to the MLW airwaves this Friday at noon to discuss Kurt Angle on the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast.

“If I was fantasy booking the Royal Rumble, I’d certainly have Kurt Angle return and start an issue with Rusev,” said Thompson. “I would have Rusev take on Angle, and that’s a classic swan song in wrestling and a classic storyline for Kurt to have the Olympic hero to take care of the Bulgarian Brute.”

The podcast will cover parts of Angle’s run in WWE and TNA, including the year 2006 when he wrestled for both companies.

“We’ll focus on Kurt’s ‘06 departure from WWE,” said Thompson. “Kurt is one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, and we do not intend to besmirch his great moment of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but you cannot tell the full Kurt Angle story without talking about his departure in ’06 and the dark place he was in his life. Thankfully, it’s a story of redemption.”

Five Questions with… Marina Shafir

Courtesy of Marina Shafir

Marina Shafir captivated the world of mixed martial arts as the “Supernova from Moldova.” The featherweight is a member of the renowned Four Horsewomen, which includes Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, and Jessamyn Duke. She is also engaged to former Ring of Honor world champion and current NXT star Roderick Strong, as well as expecting the couple’s first child. In an interview with SI.com, Shafir discusses her own career, Rousey’s future, and a potential future in pro wrestling.

SI.com: How did you meet Roderick Strong?

Shafir: Shayna Baszler, who is wrestling now in Japan, was really into wrestling and we got tickets to PWG. It was one of my first wrestling events ever, and I remember when Roddy was wrestling. I didn’t know who he was or what he was about, but Shayna kept saying, ‘Roderick Strong is the best! He’s such an ass---- when he wrestles, and he’s just so violent and doesn’t give a f---. I can’t wait for him to wrestle.’ Every other match that night was really entertaining, but Roddy’s match stuck out. He didn’t give a f---, he did not care and he was just beating the s--- out of Kyle [O’Reilly]. Then we started tweeted back-and-forth, then we eventually met at WrestleMania three years ago, and that’s when we hit it off. It’s a very pro wrestling love story.

SI.com: If Ronda Rousey and The Horsewomen ever debuted in the WWE, would the four of you overshadow the women’s roster in the WWE? Will Rousey or the Horsewomen ever wrestle in the WWE?

Shafir: Wrestling is a show, and it’s very much entertainment. You’re playing off of a character you’re perceived to be. None of us would have a problem losing a wrestling match, especially Ronda. It’s all about how the characters would be built up, so we’d have to see how it played out. I don’t think we would overshadow the women’s division, but I am convinced that we would be a force to be reckoned with. The reality of actually going in the Octagon and fighting is a sense of realism that, no matter how great the promo, no wrestler could ever overshadow. I mean, look at Brock Lesnar.

It would be really fun if we all went to WWE together, and the idea is very exciting to all of us. All of us are at different stages in our lives, but synchronicity eventually happens. There will be a point in all of our lives where we’re orbiting around the same goals.

SI.com: Do you see yourself competing after you give birth to your child?

Shafir: Yes, I do plan on competing again. I had so many things lined up before I was pregnant, and when I first found out I was pregnant, I had every hope of training every day through this pregnancy. The reality of it is hormones completely f--- you up, your sleep is ruined, and all you can really do is nest and be in a cave. I’m taking it in baby steps. As soon as I pop this kid out, I’ll be grappling and back on the mats. I have every intention of staying competitive in martial arts. It’s going to be a part of my life even when the baby is here.

It’s been a pretty emotional journey. Before I was pregnant, I was preparing to be an optimal fighting athlete. It’s been really chaotic, and I find myself calming myself down and preparing myself for motherhood. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve learned from my labor classes that labor happens in stages, just like a fight camp has stages along with preparation and weight cutting.

SI.com: Will Ronda Rousey ever fight again in the UFC?

Shafir: I don’t know if she’ll ever fight again. Before I was pregnant, I was coming off two losses. You just learn. This is a learning process. Ronda is very dedicated and passionate. Her whole life is based on rising, all the time. I don’t have any doubt that she won’t, it’s just that everybody thinks that they know who she is. Everybody thinks they know the situation, and everybody thinks they know everything’s that is going on in her life. She just needs to be left alone and process this on her own. The loss itself? She just wasn’t there that night, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The media has come at her mercilessly and fighters that had supported her throughout her career are taking this opportunity to kick her while she’s down. She’s already won—she blazed a f---ing trail and has a whole road named after her. She’s still impacting women, still impacting the fight industry, and a lot of the reason that there is this new wave of younger up-and-coming female grapplers and fighters is because of her.

Ronda can easily excuse this loss on some of the serious damage she has taken to her body in the last four-five years, but you don’t and you won’t ever hear about any of it—because as a champion, she has never made excuses. It is fascinating to me how she was encouraged all along throughout her career to reach these, assumedly, unreachable heights of success, and now that she’s made it, everyone who has supported her is trying to shoot her down. No one likes a winner, and she’s still won at life, so that’s why the hate continues. I understand if she decides to fight again and I also understand if she doesn’t.

SI.com: If the Four Horsemen ever wrestled in a WWE ring, who would be the ideal opponents? And how would the match finish?

Shafir: We would wrestle Chyna, Lita, Nattie Hart, and Charlotte. The match would end with me and Chyna in a standoff in the middle of the ring. She’s looking down at me, I’m staring right back at her, the crowd goes nuts—she walks away slowly, and out of nowhere she power bombs me into smithereens.

Tweet of the Week

See you on Sunday, Joe.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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